January 2, 2007


Jeb Bush in 2008? (Spengler, 1/03/07, Asia Times)

The US may not get what it wants, which is to remake the world in its own image, but it well might get what it needs, which is the elimination of the prospect of threats greater than the sort that an aircraft-carrier task force or two can swat down in a few days. Whether the late Saddam Hussein actually represented a potential threat of that sort, or whether bravado and self-delusion inflated an impostor's efforts at blackmail, historians will debate for some time. But the US (like its European allies) continues to have an interest in preventing a new Shi'ite empire from dominating the Persian Gulf region, especially if such an empire might obtain nuclear arms.

As long as no prospective nuclear power arises to challenge US and allied interests in the Persian Gulf, the United States can declare victory and go home, leaving the unfortunate Iraqis to their own devices. The US might simply begin aerial bombardments of Iranian nuclear-weapons-development facilities, although the cost of such action would be much higher oil prices and economic instability. China would suffer the most under such a scenario and understandably wants no such thing to occur.

Last year I forecast (wrongly) a US strike against Iran by year-end. I had given too much credence to widely circulated reports that Iran might be able to deploy a nuclear device by mid- to late 2007. US and Israeli military estimates today give Iran a minimum of three years, and more likely five years, to build a deployable bomb. There simply is no reason to take preemptive military action in the immediate future, and no responsible power would employ this option unless it were quite necessary.

There may be other ways to skin the Persian cat, particularly if Russia and China choose to cooperate in the exercise. Iran's exportable oil surplus may disappear during the next decade, according to recent estimates. If Saudi Arabia makes good on the threat offered by Nawaf Obaid in the November 28 Washington Post to sink the oil price, Iran's capacity to subsidize its increasingly indigent population will vanish.

Spengler has placed himself in the odd position of fretting about a Shi'a threat that he recognizes does not exist now and will not in the long run. Conservatives frequently made that mistake about the USSR during the Cold War with disastrous results.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 2, 2007 1:11 PM
Comments for this post are closed.